When an elderly man’s wheelchair ran out of battery power at Orchard Supply Hardware on Modesto’s Oakdale Road, he couldn’t call anyone for help.
He doesn’t own a cellphone, and his children live out of the area.
But when an off-duty Stanislaus County sheriff’s custodial deputy saw him struggling to push the heavy chair with one arm – and with the other one in a sling – she went to help.
Diana Barron pushed the man, Gino Valdez, a mile down Oakdale Road to his apartment on Wylie Drive. Along the way, she learned that he is a veteran and has four children, two of whom are active military.
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“It was really touching,” said her friend Jessica Pavao. “I was just blown away. I was so impressed, I had to stop and take video.”
The friends had been running errands together last week; Pavao was in a tanning salon near the hardware store and Barron was waiting in her car when she noticed the man. He’d taken the ride there on his electric wheelchair to buy some nails, but it stopped working as he was leaving the parking lot.
Barron, with the help of another good Samaritan, tried to get Valdez’s electric wheelchair into Pavao’s car, but it was too big.
So, she left the keys to Pavao’s car with an employee at the tanning salon and told him to tell her friend where she was going.
When Pavao got out of the salon and called the deputy, Barron and Valdez were nearly to Wylie. Pavao caught up to them in her car and shot a few videos of her friend’s kind act.
They both helped Valdez into his apartment, where he insisted they stay for a soda.
“Clearly, this act of kindness makes me very proud of Deputy Barron,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. “Her willingness to help someone in need exemplifies what it means to be a deputy sheriff.”
During their walk, Barron said, Valdez also talked about Domino’s pizza. She promised to return soon to take him out for a slice.